Monthly Archives: September 2017

Cheap Travel Websites – The Best of the Best

Over the years travel websites like Orbitz have changed the game of travel. Or so people think. The truth of the matter is, most travel agents (at least the good ones) laugh at a lot of these websites. Why? Simply put, those sites have no brains behind them. They simply show you what you request, and don’t think of different routes to try or places where it could buy a wholesale fare. That’s why I want to take a few minutes and show the travel websites that will get you cheap flights.

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Kayak.com As a travel agent, many of us would use this website as the index for what people would expect to pay for a flight. Of all the travel websites out there, Kayak was the only one we measured against. I always recommend this site to people in a rush.Vayama.com A trade secret, though not for much longer. Unlike many other travel website, this one has access to wholesale fares, and you will often find flights here cheaper than anywhere else. The catch? These special fares are usually only worthwhile on international trips.Wholesalers. While this isn’t one website, it’s worth it to search for the term “airline consolidators.” This is an age old industry trick, where you buy at wholesale and sell at retail. The secret is leaking out; many companies are getting smart and selling directly to consumers. Call them up for a quote and compare it against your travel agent’s price: this tells you how much they make if you buy with them.

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Travelocity.com/lastminutedeals. As I mentioned earlier, most of the big cheap travel websites don’t offer much value, but I have used Travelocity’s last minute deals page on several trips.Swabiz.com This gives you access to Southwest Airlines web only fares. Probably the best website for cheap travel. Seriously.

Barrier-Free Travel Tips – Finding the Right Travel Agent

Do you need really need a travel agent to plan your next vacation? The answer is a qualified yes, especially if you have access needs. Although booking a flight these days is a relatively simple procedure; people who need wheelchair-accessible lodging, ground transportation or other accommodations, may benefit from working with a qualified professional. Finding the right travel agent can be a real trick though; so here are a few tips to help you along the way.· Make sure your travel agent is a true accessible travel expert. If they claim to hold some certification or professional membership, ask how many hours of training or experience it entailed. Some agents become “experts” after a quick afternoon seminar.· Although you want to find an expert, beware of any agent who claims to be an expert in everything. It’s virtually impossible for any one agent to be a true expert in every type of accessible travel. That old saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none”, applies here.

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· Ask any prospective agent if they have booked trips for other people with your same disability. Ask them how many clients they have handled with your disability, not how long they have been doing it. Remember, a travel agent could be in business for many years, yet still have not had that many clients.· Ask friends who share your same disability if they have any travel agent recommendations. Remember to also ask about the trips they booked with their recommended agent.· Ask your prospective agent for references, but don’t totally rely on them. Remember, almost anyone can pretend to be a reference.· If you have a specific destination or trip in mind, ask about the agent’s experience with it. Some agents only specialize in a few destinations, so try and find someone with an expertise in your top choices.· Some agencies advertise that they are “owned and operated by a person with a disability”. Although there’s nothing wrong with stating that fact, be wary if that’s the agent’s only qualification. Just because someone is disabled, doesn’t automatically mean they’re knowledgeable about accessible travel.· If your travel agent claims non-profit status in advertisements, then ask about the services the agency provides for the community. If the best answer the agent can come up with is, “We negotiate good deals on travel,” then you may be dealing with a non-profit in name only. Remember, operating a non-profit organization doesn’t necessarily guarantee altruistic motives.

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· Be wary of travel agents who don’t travel. Ask them how long it’s been since their last trip or ship inspection.· Ask some trial questions to test the agent’s knowledge of the Americans with Disabilities Act. A true specialist should be aware of basic access regulations.· Last, but not least, don’t be afraid to eliminate anyone you just don’t like. After all, this is a personal service. You don’t have to become best friends with your travel agent, but you do need to maintain a cordial working relationship.

How to Tell a Good Travel Agent When You See One

You and your spouse have decided to go on a vacation. You’ve always wanted to get really away, and a trip to the relatives just doesn’t cut it any more. How do you plan your trip?You could go online and dig around for travel tips (which you’re doing right now, unless this article is in a physical magazine). You will find more information online than you can possibly use–and some will be contradictory. How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? Every place will say it’s the best place to visit. Everyone will claim to have the best discount. No one will tell you the gotchas. (Some places do have negative comments, but how do you know if the comments aren’t just sour grapes?) What if price X changes while you’re looking at price Y? What about hidden costs, problems you might not think of, secret discounts you don’t know about, and pitfalls in processing your documents? Many dangers lurk in planning travel beyond your usual haunts. And don’t forget–all that research takes time. What’s your time worth?

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You might visit a travel agent. Travel agents have a reputation for being expensive. After all, they have offices and all those fancy travel books and posters. As it happens, those ads and brochures are supplied by the cruise lines and travel companies. They pay the agents, too, normally. If an agent needs to charge you for a service, they will tell you up front. if you’re in a travel club, you can expect the agent to reduce or eliminate the commission, and have a ready supply of club discounts, further reducing the price. Ask yourself: What’s a travel agent’s knowledge and experience worth? They know the ropes, the pitfalls, the tricks of the trade; they have access to all the discounts, and they’ll save you time and stress–after you get to know a travel agent, one phone call can take care of everything.Of course, you have the same problem picking a travel agent as you do making travel decisions online: Who’s good? For that matter, what is good in a travel agent? And how can you tell?Here are a few ways to take the measure of a travel agent.Are you connected to the agent? (This rule is good when you consider hiring a realtor or a funeral director, too.) If you know someone in the travel industry, they are more likely to want to give you exceptional service. After all, they see you socially. Maybe you know where they live. Good travel agents can be relatives, acquaintances, friends, and friends of friends.
Is the person well traveled? If they have been to where you want to go, all the better, but travel experience of any sort seasons a person. A travel agent who has personally been around the block a few times is a font of wisdom and advice.
Is the person detail oriented? Not necessarily neat (that is a good thing), but notice whether they find your file immediately. They should know where everything is and not have to hunt for things. You don’t want an absent-minded professor for a travel agent. You never (okay, hardly ever) see a good travel agent surprised by something, and they keep their promises about when they’ll have something for you. They are ready when you show up after that first, introductory meeting.
Is the agent you’re working with responsive? Do they answer phone calls and emails promptly? This is a must. Even if all they can say is that they need more time, they don’t make you wait for a reply.
Are they cost efficient? You can tell this by the number of choices they present you with. A lazy travel agent won’t research multiple options, won’t hunt for the best price, won’t spend any more time than necessary working up your vacation. You see them look up one thing and give you a price. A good agent will hunt down good deals, think of options (a nearby nice location that costs less, for example) that you didn’t consider, check with several wholesalers. Good agents give you a lot to choose from.

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A good travel agent can handle a lot of that before-vacation hassle, and make your next trip more enjoyable while it’s happening.

Taking the Stress Out of Travel

The trick to successful and stress-free travel is planning ahead. Challenging, though it might seem, your goal is to think of every possible contingency that might come up, and take action before it happens. What will you do if your luggage is lost? If you get sick? If you forget your blue pumps? Being PROACTIVE will reduce the possibility of a serious crisis occurring during your trip.BUDGETING FOR YOUR TRIPTravel doesn’t have to break the bank — not if you are willing to plan ahead for your vacation spending. Decide first how much you can AFFORD, then make your travel plans. Start searching early for travel deals — talk to your travel agent, look for internet specials, and check with travel clubs for discounts. You can find some great bargains in package deals that combine hotel and airfare at a discounted rate.If vacations tend to get you in trouble on your credit cards, consider starting a savings account just for travel — where you put away a small amount each month toward your next trip. You should also plan to use traveler’s checks instead of credit cards to stay within your budget. It’s amazing how easy it is to go overboard when start handing out the plastic! And be sure to keep track of how much you actually spend — as compared to your budget — throughout the trip. You might keep a small pad of paper with you for recording expenses and tallying up your total for each day.If you can’t seem to make it happen on your budget, consider COMPROMISING on lower priority expenses in exchange for the higher priority ones. When my husband and I travel, we are always willing to stay in a budget hotel so we can afford to eat out and attend cultural events. We decided that expensive hotels are wasted on us because we spend very little time in our room, and we would rather spend our money elsewhere. Where are you willing to trade off?PACKING MADE EASYHave you ever been away from home and suddenly realized that you forgot your toothbrush, your shoes, or your bathing suit? Having to rush around replacing items that you left behind not only wastes time and money, it also reduces your enjoyment of the trip. And sometimes, you might forget an item that isn’t so easily replaced — like your checkbook or the report you were supposed to present at tomorrow’s meeting. But you can save yourself a lot of heartache by taking the guesswork out of packing.Start by developing PACKING LISTS for both short-term travel (from one to three days) and longer trips. You can even create different lists for different kinds of travel — camping, business, foreign travel, trips to the beach, cold-weather travel, etc. Try to include any and all generic items that you might need — clothes, toiletries, alarm clock, night light, whatever you like to take with you. Then use these lists as memory-joggers as you are packing for each trip. You can also cut down on the time you spend preparing for travel by keeping a “pre-packed” toiletry bag with duplicates of the items you use in your home. Fill your kit with samples of shampoo, soap, lotion, cosmetics, toothpaste, and shaving cream — even miniature toothbrushes and razors. These travel-sized items take up less room in your suitcase, and you will be less likely to leave something important behind.

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And don’t forget your important documents – especially if you are travelling overseas. You should plan to bring proof of citizenship, an official government photo identification (driver’s license or military ID is fine), a state-issued birth certificate with a raised seal, and a passport. Remember that children and infants are also required to have a state-issued birth certificate for travel.LESS IS MOREIf you can get away with it, try not to check your luggage. I purchased a very roomy pullman carry on that will accommodate up to a week’s worth of clothes — that way, I never have to be concerned about losing my bags. If you pack “mix-and-match” outfits and plan to do some washing along the way, you don’t need 15 different outfits for a one-week trip. And if you have to check a piece, be sure to keep those items you couldn’t live without in your carry on — toiletries, a change of clothes, clean underwear, medications, maps, travel confirmations, and any materials you might need for an upcoming business meeting. But try to take no more than one medium-sized and one carry on bag per person. Remember, you can always remedy underpacking, but not OVERPACKING! However heavy your suitcase is when you start out, it will be twice as heavy when you come home.If you plan to do any shopping while on your trip, you may decide to bring along an extra bag for carrying your purchases home. Put your filled suitcase inside a slightly larger empty one — or, get a collapsible tote that will take up very little space in your bag. But the easiest option (although perhaps not the cheapest) is to have each store ship your treasures directly to your home. This is an especially good policy if you are bringing home anything large or bulky on a plane, as the airlines often charge extra for oversized parcels. And each bag you have to lug around limits your transportation options. Heavy suitcases mean cabs and porters and inconvenience and fatigue — while a light suitcase equals travel freedom.PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR BELONGINGSWhile no one wants to be paranoid about their safety when travelling, it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution when planning your trip. So let’s start with your “stuff” — list the contents of each piece of luggage and keep your list close at hand anytime your bags are out of your sight. This will save you a great deal of frustration if your bags are lost and you have to file a claim or replace your belongings. And don’t forget to mark your luggage for easy retrieval — all those black pullmans are starting to look alike, and it’s easy for someone else to pick up your bag.While you are making lists, create a WRITTEN RECORD of your credit card numbers, traveler’s checks, medical insurance, emergency phone numbers, and other important information to take with you when you travel. And always keep this information hidden away someplace secure — a hotel safe deposit box is a good choice — where you can easily access it if you need it. Do not — I repeat do not — keep this record in your purse or wallet. Think about it. Those are the first things a thief will take — if you keep your list with the credit cards and traveler’s checks, it doesn’t help much when they are stolen. You are better off sticking it in your shoe (as long as your feet don’t sweat a lot!)Finally, be sure to have a POINT OF CONTACT at home — someone who knows where you are and how to reach you. Make sure to give this person any information that could be important in the event of an emergency — the phone number and address where you are staying, the code to your alarm system, your doctor’s name, etc. It will ease your mind to know that you can be contacted if something goes wrong at home — and that you have someone who can act on your behalf if something goes awry on your end.KEEPING YOUR HOUSE SAFENothing can ruin a fabulous vacation more than worrying about your home while you are gone. But a few simple precautions can help ease your mind and keep your domicile safe. Before you leave, let the police or a very trusted neighbor know you will be gone — especially if you are planning a lengthy trip. Nothing says “not home” more than a pile of newspapers in your driveway or magazines pouring out of your mailbox — so stop your mail and newspaper delivery or have neighbor collect them. Investing in timers for your lights, radios, etc, — and setting them to go on and off at random times during the day – will make your home look lived in and keep burglars away. And if you still aren’t comfortable abandoning your home, hire a housesitter.INSURE YOUR TRIPOne thing that very few people remember to do before leaving home is review their insurance policies. This is particularly important if you are travelling overseas. First, make sure that you have the proper personal liability coverage. This is meant to insure the loss or theft of your personal possessions, injury (to yourself or someone else), your legal defense (other countries don’t operate like the US — remember that kid in Singapore who was caned?), and the repatriation of your remains should you die overseas (not a nice thought, but it does happen). Check with your insurance carriers — your homeowner’s policy may include coverage for your possessions while away from home, and your credit card company probably offers inexpensive life insurance.If you plan to operate a vehicle while on your trip, check to see what your automobile insurance covers. If you are in an accident in a rented car, what is paid for? Are you covered if you are in an accident overseas? Are there any hidden costs that you will be expected to pay? You should also familiarize yourself with your MEDICAL insurance. What actions does your insurance company require if you become ill or injured while out of state? Out of the country?If you are taking a package tour or an expensive trip, if you will be visiting a dangerous or unpredictable parts of the world, or if you have a personal or medical situation that might disrupt your travels, you should also consider trip cancellation and interruption insurance. This type of coverage can protect you in case of bad weather (ie: a cruise cancelled because of a hurricane), illness, family emergency, and even the default or bankruptcy of your travel suppliers. But remember that certain situations — like pre-existing medical conditions, terrorism, hijacking, and war — can void your trip cancellation coverage. Make sure that you clearly understand all of the terms, requirements, and EXCLUSIONS before you purchase your insurance. Does it only cover situations when someone in your party gets sick, or if someone at home gets sick as well? When does your coverage start and end? Does “medical evacuation” mean that you are evacuated to the nearest medical facility or back home? You might want to contact the insurance company yourself, as many travel agents may not understand all the terms of your policy. Don’t assume that anything is covered until you check it out for yourself.

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SCHEDULING AS A SCIENCESome of the biggest frustrations people face when travelling are disruptions to their SCHEDULE — flight delays, traffic jams, getting lost, long lines, you name it. But you can take a number of precautions to make sure you are able to stick to your itinerary while travelling. Don’t wait until you arrive at your destination to learn the lay of the land. Take the time to research your trip before leaving — develop at least a cursory knowledge of the routes, directions, tourist attractions, transportation systems, and weather. Look at your options and pick a few major sights that you really want to see while on your trip — just remember that you can’t do everything! Then make as many advance reservations as possible once your itinerary is set, remembering to build the travel time from sight to sight into your itinerary. Be sure to confirm any appointments and reservations before leaving — and then reconfirm everything when you arrive. There is no such thing as double-checking too much!We’ve talked a lot about physical preparations for your vacation — but preparing yourself mentally is just as important. Determine ahead of time what your EXPECTATIONS are for your trip. What must happen to make this a successful trip? Which activities or sights you it would disappoint you to miss? Which activities or sights you it wouldn’t bother you to miss? And what problems that you have had on other trips that you would like to avoid this time? Try to admit to yourself that things may not go perfectly throughout the entire trip. Be FLEXIBLE and have other options ready (reading, other activities) if your schedule gets off track. Understand that you can not control every (or any!) aspect of travel. The more willing you are to accept difficulties and delays, the less disruptive they will be if they do occur. Happy travels!

Tricks of the Trade For Lowering Auto Insurance

The most important and meaningful factor that you need to know when looking for auto insurance quotes is that you need to shop around as much as possible and not let yourself become closed-minded or happy to settle for something when you could do better. This is the sure-fire way to finding the insurance company that will give you the cheapest quotes.It’s also important to let the insurance companies realize that you aren’t totally sold yet (when speaking with agents on the phone) and that you’re still looking around. This may hopefully cause the insurance agents to become worried that they’ll lose your business and offer you a better deal. They can do this because most auto insurance companies have a certain amount of slack that they can give, meaning that they can always lower the price just a little bit, but they won’t ever tell you this unless they’re scared of losing your business!

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There are several other ways that you can get your basic insurance quote price down, but many of these are beyond your immediate control. For example, your age, your sex, and your location all make a huge difference, but like I said, you have very little force to change these. One great thing that you CAN change is how you combine your other insurances. Most people naturally have other types of insurance (other than car insurance), such as home insurance, travel insurance, life insurance, etc. It can be extremely beneficial to get these all from the same company, as it can result in you getting a large discount. Again, try talking to you insurance agent and mention this to them. Nine times out of ten they’ll be able to cut you a better deal then you’re already getting.